Where’s the reconnect button?

By Guest Blogger: Kathleen Surline, NY Certified Peer Specialist
Founder, Wisdom Within (https://wisdomwithinweb.wordpress.com)

Of all the profundities that have come to light in the course of my illness, recovery, and even my subsequent choice to become a NY Certified Peer Specialist, one the most perplexing has been disconnection; or perhaps, more accurately, reconnection.

I suppose it goes without saying that most of us experience some manner of disconnection before, during and/or after our mental health diagnoses.  While we are struggling with our symptoms and no one else gets us. While we are are fearing what might really be wrong. While we are sleeping less and less. While we are swimming in that initial sea of uncertainty. We may not feel able to hold a conversation with a friend or loved one; our words don’t work. We may find we are
isolating (such a common occurrence during depressive episodes, etc.); we have a hard time reading with understanding; we feel unable to explain what we are going through, so we may say nothing at all. We don’t go out. We don’t answer the phone. We stop getting online.
Slowly, slowly, through the course of recovery work, we make certain new connections that help our footing. Maybe its a medication regimen that finally seems to help, after months of trial and error and side effect surprises. Maybe it’s a therapist or doctor that we finally feel is the right fit for us. Perhaps we took up writing again, or art, or music, or (name your therapeutic endeavour of choice here). All this helps. But many of us are still very separate from the rest of the world. Some disabled by distance or finance, some by inability to leave their homes to attend support groups, workshops, conferences.

Then, lo and behold, and by whatever manner the opportunity came, we find there is now a connection, a path if you will, in peer support, that can allow us to make lemonade from lemons.

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The Offices for Mental Health and the Academy for Peer Services avail us of the possibility of becoming Certified Peer Specialists in mental health via the online
coursework they’ve so outstandingly developed! To connect with a like-minded group, even if only in spirit. To share what we’ve lived, survived, learned along the way, from our oft times lengthy dance in the darkness. To then take that forward, with shared knowledge and standardized education, in our history, in this new work, in an effort to help the next humans who find themselves at the dance; to encourage wellness, self-advocacy, and hope.  Despite perhaps some sputters and
spurts, we reconnect online to APS coursework and discussion forums, and focus on certification. The sense of accomplishment and affirmation once that certification happens, well, it’s like a rebirth of sorts. Back into the world of the functional, the valued, the accomplished!

Then, we may find, despite all best intention and enthusiasm, that peer support work itself can, at times, leave one feeling disconnected in its own right. Or at the very least, somewhat isolated.

If we are fortunate enough to gain a position in the peer support workforce, then the fellow consumer-survivors we serve may be our most frequent interactions. We are there for them (not the other way around). Its not like we have a support group for Peer Specialists. And the work is not easy; if it were, everyone would do it.

On the other hand, if we are not immediately finding positions in the peer support workforce, then we may again feel isolation and disconnect. Peer support work is evidence-based, yet old stigmas and biased perceptions still serve as roadblocks to our early success in some regions. This frustration could be enough to cause one to give in to the agony of defeat!

But, as Winston Churchill so aptly put it, “never, never, never give up.”

Now, we have APS’ new Virtual Community! What an opportunity! Might it be possible to create new connections with this as a starting point? Could this be one small step, to at least a foothold on the ladder to reconnection? Might we develop online support groups for our peer support workforce? For our new and continuing APS students? The mind boggles in wonder about ways can we look to reconnect our disconnects through this forum, and where that might … connect us to the future.


By Guest Blogger: Kathleen Surline. NY Certified Peer Specialist
Founder, Wisdom Within (https://wisdomwithinweb.wordpress.com)

One thought on “Where’s the reconnect button?

  1. FOXLA February 23, 2018 / 4:00 pm

    I really respect your writing, and being so free with your thoughts! I can relate to a lot of what you have written, and there is a sense of some upliftment, well to know others feel similar to you. Sometimes I think the path is hard to move forward in the field of Peer Support, well because I am so brand new, and I have all kinds of runaway thoughts, about if I will be chosen for this field or not, will it work out, and what are my strengths to contribute in authentic way! So, thanks for taking the time out to write out your thoughts, there are people like me who will read them and glean some benefit or two or three…

    Like

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